I had a really cool discussion the other day with a young man from Utah. I really did not know him, but I was able to surmise that he was religious (Mormon or Christian is my best guess.) He had taken umbrage with a post on FB which suggested that atheists are freethinkers and somehow more intelligent that those of faith. This made me really think about the relationship between intelligence and faith. Here are my thoughts about it.
There actually have been some scientific studies looking at this idea. Here are the links to the abstracts:
Basically, both studies do indicate that there is a correlation between intelligence and religion. However, these studies are flawed in several ways. They do not fully account for the cultural bias in IQ testing. They also do not fully account for societal pressures with become religious or non-religious. So, while they can demonstrate at least a correlation, it would be dangerous to suggest that there is a causal link.
However, while the science is yet inconclusive, I do have some ideas about it. Let me first say that I know many, many intelligent Christians. I have also met many very ignorant atheists. So, these thoughts speak in general terms and I will prepare for the hate mail . . .
I do believe that atheists are, in general, a more INFORMED group of people than Christians. This is not necessarily a reflection of IQ -- just a reflection of the body of knowledge that each has. Why is this? Why does it seem that atheists are more informed? It is because we are truly freethinkers.
What does freethinking mean? It means that we have freed ourselves from a worldview that is based upon the a priori assumption that God exists, has a plan for us, and wishes us to view the world from the lenses from the Bible (or other sacred texts.) We are able to explore the world and make decisions based upon facts -- not myths.
As freethinkers we have the following intellectual advantages:
1. We are allowed to read anything that pleases us without some sky-god possibly condemning us. Most freethinkers that I know are very well read. Those of faith, on the other hand, tend to read things which confirm their own beliefs -- as opposed to challenge them.
2. We are allowed to change our minds. HOW COOL IS THIS! If a better idea comes out, if research shows something different, if we learn something new -- we can change our minds about something. People who think via God, cannot do such a thing. No matter what. They start with their beliefs -- and then have to make the facts fit them. Just take a look at the creation museum to see the effects of this mental contortionism.
3. We let the facts of life do the talking. Facts and real information guide our thoughts. Most of the freethinkers I know are very well versed in the world of information. Why? Because we crave it. We want to learn about our world and how it works. We are curious people and we don't fill our curiosities with religion. We love science, sociology, literature and all things which give us knowledge and real beauty.
I don't know if religion is tied to intelligence. But I do know that freethinking is tied to being better informed about our world. I'll take freethinking every time.
Talk to you later!